When I first started making tutorial videos for this site, I was using pretty low-grade equipment. Since then, I've upgraded things a bit. This is one of the reasons I wanted to revisit this video on drawing facial features. Another reason is that the first video I made about facial proportions featured a face that looked pretty darn scary. So this time, I used a photo reference with a slightly more pleasant looking fellow.
Drawing a portrait is very much like drawing any other subject matter. You have to closely observe the subject in order to draw it accurately. Of course portrait drawing is especially delicate, because the goal is to make the portrait resemble the subject closely. If you know the person, the pressure to produce accuracy can be daunting. But every artist, no matter what their skill level should take heart. Even the most experienced and well-known portrait artists are presented with challenges. Consider these two quotes from one of the best portrait painters of all time, John Singer Sargent...
“Every time I paint a portrait, I lose a friend.”
“A portrait is a painting in which something is wrong with the mouth.”
I bet you that most of us can relate to both of these quotes. We’ve all felt the pressure when drawing or painting a portrait to make it look exactly like our subject. Especially when that subject is a friend. For some of us, the pressure is so great, we avoid portraits all together.
It’s often hard to pinpoint a problem in a portrait. We can see that something isn’t quite right, but finding the solution or the fix can really throw some of us. Often it’s a combination of issues that lead to a less than perfect portrait. Maybe something “is wrong with the mouth”.
Even though representational portrait drawing is reliant on good observation and accurate mark-making, we can still follow a procedure that will lead to better results in our attempts. This procedure is focused on proportion. Proportion, of course, being the most important aspect of portrait drawing.
These steps are demonstrated in the video below, but here’s a brief run down of the order...
1. Establish the cranium of the subject by drawing a circle
2. Draw a line down the middle of the circle. Make this line nearly double the length of the circle.
3. Establish the chin and jaw line.
4. Draw a line for the location of the eyes in the middle of the head.
5. Draw the eyes on the “eye line”. Draw the eyes so that 5 eyes can fit on the “eye line”, so that there drawn the correct size.
6. Determine the location of the nose by drawing a line approximately half-way between the eye line and the bottom of the chin.
7. Determine the width of the nose by comparing the width with the inside portions of the eyes.
8. Draw the nose concentrating on the values inside of the lines.
9. Determine the location of the mouth by drawing a line just above “half-way” between the nose line and the bottom of the chin.
10. Determine the width of the mouth by comparing the width with the inside portions of the pupils.
11. Draw the mouth on the mouth line.
12. Determine the location and size of the ears by using the eye line and the nose line as a guide.
13. Draw the ears.
14. Draw the neck by drawing two lines down from where the bottom portion of the ears touch the face.
15. Draw the shape of the hair over the cranium.
16. Create a full range of value by adding core and cast shadows and areas of highlight to the drawing.
Here's how to draw a more pleasant looking face with accurate facial proportions...